U.S. Senate due change in practices, Bennet says

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., wants to transform how the Senate does business, hoping among other things to change the way earmarks are handled and reducing the number of votes needed to override a filibuster.

“The longer I’m here, the more ‘Alice in Wonderland’ this place feels to me,” Bennet told reporters during a Wednesday teleconference with reporters.

Republicans fired back, calling Bennet’s proposal “too little, too late.”

Among the changes Bennet will ask the Senate to make are:

• Eliminate anonymous hold, in which individual senators can prevent votes on presidential appointments.

• Eliminate private-sector earmarks.

• Bar lawmakers from lobbying for life.

• Freeze pay and budgets for members of Congress and forbid salary increases until the country sees four consecutive quarters of economic growth.

• Reduce the majority needed to overcome a filibuster from 60 to 55 votes. To achieve that, however, Bennet would have to garner 67 votes.

Bennet pointed to the defeat of a commission on deficit reduction that had the support of 53 senators, but died on a filibuster “for no good reason. It wouldn’t have happened if the filibuster rules I propose were in place.”

He already is trying to lead by example, Bennet said. For instance, his staff will get no salary increases unless the economy improves for four straight quarters, he said.

Republicans said Bennet voted twice to increase the debt ceiling, while supporting the stimulus package and the “president’s bloated budget.”

Bennet, appointed last year to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter, faces a primary challenge from former Colorado state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.


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